Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Last Chance to Register for November Classes

There's still time to sign up for a great class with GenClass. November classes begin Thursday, November 1st.

Click here to see a list of classes for November. Only $29.95 for 4 weeks of instruction (8 lessons and class chats with the instructors).

Learn some new techniques or brush up on your research skills!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

University of Pittsburgh to Sponsor 17th Annual Slovak Heritage Festival November 4

PITTSBURGH- The 17th annual Slovak Heritage Festival—featuring Slovak song and dance, educational lectures and displays, ethnic foods, and vendors selling Slovak merchandise—will be held from 1 to 5 pm Sunday, November 4, in the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Fifth Ave., Oakland. This year's free event will include artists and speakers performing in the Cathedral of Learning's Commons Room, including Josef Ivaska and the Singing Revilak Family from the Slovak Republic, as well as the Pittsburgh Slovakians and the Pittsburgh Area Slovaks, representing the Western Pennsylvanian Slovak community, and Ben Sorensen from North Carolina.

This year, speakers will present several lectures: "Slovak Pittsburgh" (This is my talk); "Learning Slovak on Your Own: Textbooks, Dictionaries and Strategies," "The Foreigner's Guide to Living in Slovakia," "Slovak Folk Tales and Slovak Storytelling," "Slovenska'cesta-Slovak Journey," and "Music in Slovakia: The Carpatho-Rusyns."

Sorensen, an American musician who studied the fujura under the guidance of Dusan Holik (who has performed at previous Pitt events), will be singing a selection of songs during the festivities. A member of the Spolok Fujarasov (Fujarist's Guild), Sorensen is also a member of the Folk Group Vagonar, which has recorded a new album that will be released later this year.The Singing Revil'ak Family's repertoire includes Slovak and Carpatho-Rusyn folk art songs and international favorites, featured in its 20-year performance history on European, Canadian, and US stages. The family—the parents, two daughters, and a son—grew up singing in Bardejov, Slovakia, and has received many national awards.Ivaska, known in Slovakia as the "Man of a Thousand Songs," is making his third concert tour of the United States. During the Communist era, officials forced Ivaska out of the country, banning his music. Currently residing in Austria, he performs operetta, rock, pop, jazz, and folk music internationally and sings tenor with the Metropolitan Operetta Theater in Slovakia.

Pitt's Slovak Studies Program and the Pitt Students' Slovak Club are cosponsors of the event. For more information, call 412-624-5906 or e-mail <>.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

StoryCorps Book: Pre-order Your Copy Today!

I just pre-ordered my copy of Listening Is an Act of Love, the first-ever StoryCorps book, which will be available November 8!

I can't wait to read it!

Here is the announcement from StoryCorps:


StoryCorps founder Dave Isay has selected some of the most remarkable stories from the already vast collection and arranges them thematically into a moving portrait of American life. Just in time for the holiday season, our new book and accompanying CD, will be available in bookstores and at Starbucks nationwide.

By using to pre-order your book, StoryCorps will receive a portion of the sales.

Help us make it a success. Here are some things you and your friends can do to help support StoryCorps’ mission to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening.

- Attend a book reading
If you live near one of the cities on our book tour (see below), please join us.

- Choose us for your book club
We guarantee many hours of thought- provoking discussion.

- Spread the word
Pass along this email to family and friends and encourage them to join the StoryCorps family.

- Watch Dave on The Colbert Report
Wednesday, November 7 at 11:30 PM EST on Comedy Central

- Preorder a copy
100% of the royalties from book sales will go towards our mission as an independent non-profit organization.

- Record your story
Visit for StoryBooth locations and to make a reservation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vying for Pierogy Pride

If you love pierogies (pirohi/pirhohy), you might want to cast your vote for the Capital of the Piergoy Pocket of America. Mrs T's Pierogy's is sponsoring the contest. You will have to hurry though - the deadline is 11:59 p.m tonight - Tuesday. October 23rd!

Just go to and click on "Meet the Cities & Vote Now." The finalists are:

Binghamton, NY
Buffalo, NY
Clifton, NJ
Lancaster, NY
Whiting, IN

Since my hometown of Pittsburgh is not included in the list, I will have to cast my vote for another city!

Of course, I am a bit biased though because to me nobody makes pirohi like my Slovak Baba did!

The winner will be announced next month, and the city or organization will will be awarded $10,000 for a community endeavor of their choice.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Anniversary Remembrance

Today would have been my parents' 60th wedding anniversary. Ten years ago, I threw them a surprise party for their 50th with family members and close friends in attendance. Here's a photo from that party.

Unfortunately, they are not here to celebrate their 60th, but I know they are together in eternity and I am thinking of them today with much love.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Announcement: 2008 FEEFHS Conference in Pittsburgh

Plans are underway for the 2008 Federation of East European Family History Societies international conference which will be held August 1-3 at the Pittsburgh Airport Marriott Hotel. The jam-packed weekend will feature lectures on Friday and Saturday by leading experts in the areas of Central and Eastern European research, DNA testing, online databases, and more! The plenary session on Friday August 1st will be delivered by Stephen P. Morse, creator of the One-Step Search tools. The Saturday evening banquet will feature a talk by Pittsburgh native, Joseph Bielecki, on the creation of the world-famous nationality rooms located in the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. An optional ethnic neigborhood tour - the Rivers of Steel "Babushkas and Hard Hats" tour will take place on Sunday, August 3rd.

The program is still being finalized, but an official announcement and registration form can be found on the FEEFHS web site:

I will be posting more updates on this conference so watch this space! If you have Central or Eastern European roots, you do not want to miss this excellent learning experience and networking opportunity! Be sure to reserve your spot early!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Reminder: CGSI Conference in Madison

Just a reminder of the upcoming 11th Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International Conference in Madison, WI October 18-20, 2007. I am looking forward to this conference and hope to see some of you there!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Oh, That Lemon Pie!

I don't watch a lot of television, but one show I do enjoy is ABC's "Desperate Housewives." During this past Sunday's episode, two characters, Bree and Katherine, were squaring off in a contest on who could bake the best lemon pie in a battle to be the number one homemaker.

The fight over the "lemon pie" reminded me of my maternal grandmother and how much I enjoyed her homemade lemon pie.

Lemon Pie is one of the recipes I included in my book, Baba's Kitchen: Slovak & Rusyn Family Recipes and Traditions. So, in the spirit of the "Housewives" episode, here is the recipe from the book.

Basic Pie Crust

For one-crust pie.

1 c. flour
pinch of salt
¾ c. or more of Crisco shortening (butter flavor Crisco is best)
8 to 10 tbsp. ice water

Blend with pastry blender until crumbly. Then add about 8 to 10 tablespoons of ice water, and mix with a fork to form a ball and roll.

If baking, place in 450 °F oven and bake 10-12 minutes or unitl golden brown.
For a two-crust pie, make two recipes.

Grandma’s Lemon Pie

One of my favorite desserts from Grandma Figlar’s kitchen!


Use basic pie crust recipe, or store-bought already prepared pie crust.


1-½ c. water 3 egg yolks (slightly beaten)
1 c. sugar 1 tbsp. butter
½ c. water 1 lemon (use juice and grated rind)
7 tbsp. cornstarch
(dissolved in a bit of water)

In pot, bring to boil over direct heat, 1 c. of sugar in 1-½ c. water. Make a thin paste from the cornstarch and ½ c. water. Add cornstarch paste and cook until mixture begins to thicken. Then transfer to a double boiler and continue cooking 15 min. until thick and smooth. Add the slightly beaten egg yolks and butter. Cook one minute longer. Blend in lemon juice and grated rind of uncooked lemon. Cool and pour into pie crust. Top with meringue. Bake in slow oven at 325 °F for 15 minutes or until delicately brown.

Light meringue:
3 egg whites (beaten)
9 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Beat egg whites until stiff and add sugar gradually. Then add 1 teaspoon vanilla and beat until peaks form.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

More Digital Family History Show and Tell

From time to time I've posted a few family treasures I've discovered and asked others to share items for a type of digital show and tell.

Here's another - a Slovak prayer book that belonged to my grandmother, Elizabeth Fenscak Alzo, and some prayers she copied down on paper in her own handwriting. I don't remember my grandma because she died when I was only 2-years-old. So having something of her's that is so personal truly is a treasure.

I wish I could say that I can read the prayers in this book, but I unfortunately, I never learned enought Slovak to read it. I can make out a few words here and there, but that's it.

If anyone has another item they want to post on their own Blog, we can start the chain again.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Genealogy Mention in Prime Time

I just happened to catch last night's episode of ER and there was an actual mention of genealogy. The doctors were talking about how Frank, the character who mans the main desk was on his computer and how he "got into genealogy" and then throughout the program was telling some of the docs about those folks they supposedly descended from (most of the time incorrectly). Sure, it probably wasn't the best picture of what genealogy really is, but nevertheless, at least it was mentioned!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Whither the Writer

I was doing some cleaning out of old files and I found the following newspaper clipping in a box with some of my graduate school materials.

Anyone who writes professionally, or has a desire to pen the next great novel, can certainly appreciate the observations in this piece which I believe was printed sometime in the 1990s.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

World Vital Records, Inc. Launches Federal U.S. Census From 1790-1930
Allcensus partners with World Vital Records, Inc.

The following is an announcement from World Vital Records regarding its partnership with Allcensus. Sounds like more great news for family history sleuths.

Provo, UT, October 1, 2007 ---Allcensus has partnered with World Vital Records, Inc. to bring the Federal U.S. Census from 1790-1930 online at
"We, at Allcensus, are excited about this opportunity to assist a broader audience in tracing their family history. Our high quality census pages and correction of errors in pagination will make it easier for researchers to find the data they need in a very convenient and easy to use fashion,” said Jon McInnis, President,

The Federal Census online at contains more than 800,000 browseable images and 32 million names from select counties in every state, except Alaska. The Federal Census contains unique and pertinent information. “The thing that I love about census data is that it helps connect the dots between many diverse genealogy data bases. The various census data sets, while not perfect, are the closest to consistent data collecting at any point in history,” said David Lifferth, President, World Vital Records, Inc. “With each successive census, more data elements are known and tracked. In most of the census you can get family group sheet info that is not documented anywhere else except for the family bible.”World Vital Records, Inc. is building the index to the images, with the exception to the 1790 index, which is already complete. The Federal Census database will be free to access at for 10 days after its initial launch.

“We are delighted to add such a large collection of census images from select counties across the United States to These records from Allcensus provide a good cross section of nearly 150 years of vital data,” said Yvette Arts, Director, Content Acquisition, World Vital Records, Inc.

The first Federal U.S. Census was taken in 1790. A census has been taken every ten years since that time. The Federal Census at includes information such as names of family members, state or county of birth, birth places of the parents, marital status, occupation, year of immigration, etc.

“Census records really are the backbone to genealogical research in the United States. We use them to find families, establish relationships, establish occupations, and determine military service. The clues we gather from census records help us find the family in other records. Basically, census records create the family history,” Natalie Cottrill, President and CEO, “I start with census research, and supplement the family history in what I find in census records with other records I am searching.”

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


An interesting educational opportunity awaits all with an interest in Czech and Slovak Genealogy. The Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International, of St. Paul, Minnesota, has selected the Doubletree Guest Suites Seattle Airport Southcenter, 16500 Southcenter Pkwy, as site of their 2008 Genealogical and Cultural Symposium. The dates are Friday April 11 and Saturday April 12, 2008. Registration for the event is open to the public. Friday's events include a deluxe motor coach tour of the Seattle area, including ethnic stops at the Little Prague European Bakery and Kusak's Cut Glass Works. Other stops include the Pike's Market Pier area and the Museum of History and Industry.

On Friday evening a dinner at the Doubletree will be highlighted by local and nationally known genealogist and author, Cyndi Howells, of Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet. Her talk is entitled, "The Internet Made Me an Expert on Everything". Saturday's program at the Doubletree offers 10 presentations over 5 one-hour time slots given by expert speakers in the fields of genealogy, history, language and folk art. Professor James Felak, from the University of Washington will speak on Slovak history and the relations between Czechs and Slovaks during the 20th century. Shon Edwards, East European Specialist for the Genealogical Society of Utah will speak on Beginning Genealogy Research and progress of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the Czech Republic Vital Record Digitization Project, as well as an update on microfilms of Slovak vital records. Leo Baca of Dallas, Texas, a well-known Czech genealogist will speak about Czech Immigration Passenger Arrivals and Genetics in Genealogy. Other speakers include Chuck Kusak on the History of the Kusak Cut Glass Works, founded in Seattle by his immigrant Moravian grandfather Anton Kusak, Daniela Sipkova Mahoney of Portland, on Czech and Slovak Easter Traditions, and Jaroslava Soldanova from the University of Washington's Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures on the Czech language.

The Symposium will be capped off late Saturday afternoon and evening with a tour to Tillicum Village on Blake Island State Park for their famous Indian salmon bake, native dance performance, and folk art demonstrations. For additional information on the 2008 Genealogy Symposium contact Paul Makousky or visit

The CGSI is a non-profit educational corporation which collects and disseminates genealogical, historical and related information about persons with ancestry from the Czech and Slovak lands. They provide a 40-48 page quarterly called Nase rodina (Our family), hold quarterly membership meetings and hold a National Conference at least every other year. The society will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2008.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Finally...History of Slovaks in America Book Available!

Good news for those of Slovak heritage who have been waiting for years for their copy of History of Slovaks in America. I can't wait for my copy to arrive!

There were various delays in the publication of the translation, but it is
now available from the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International ($49.50) post paid. For more information, go to

This 411 page hardbound book was originally published in the Slovak language in two volumes in 1942. Most of the original photos from the book have been reproduced in this English edition, along with rare additional photos of the author and the 1935-36 Matica Slovenska delegation, which he accompanied to America to conduct research for this book. In History of Slovaks in America, writer and historian Konstantin Culen (1904-1964) paints a vivid portrait of early Slovak life in the U.S. He records in detail the experiences of Slovak-Americans, their struggles and triumphs, their strengths and failings, their passions and prejudices, and their fight to achieve unity and justice for the Slovak nation, both in America and in their oppressed homeland.

Through his rich and extensive use of early newspaper accounts, letters, eyewitness narratives and other original source materials, Culen enables us to hear the "voice" of the Slovak immigrant generation. The result is an absorbing and often dramatic chronicle of the Slovak-American experience. Appearing for the first time in English translation, this book provides an indispensable resource for understanding the foundations of Slovak life in America.

All surnames and place names in the book are fully-indexed, as an aid to genealogical research.

"Konstantin Culen was the first Slovak writer to undertake systematic research in the history of the American Slovaks, and the first to write a part of that history. He prepared many rich chapters on the history of parishes, movements, organizations, societies. . . . Culen was the first to bring about a rapprochement between Slovak America and the land of its origins. And had he accomplished nothing more as a writer and newspaperman, this accomplishment alone would rate him with the best - to be remembered as one of the foremost Slovak intellectuals of our century." - Jednota